ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
The story focuses on four different men. Wembley Stadium, London, 1963. Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) is boxing Henry Cooper and winning so soundly that his coach Angelo Dundee (Michael Imperioli) says the crowd is going to be angry there’s not a full match. Cassius goes back in and gets clocked in the face and gets knocked out. Meanwhile, in New York City at the Copacabana, Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) is scheduled to perform but the very white audience responds extremely coldly, and many of them rudely walkout. When the white man who booked him points out he bombed, Sam angrily throws him out of his dressing room.
After he returns to Georgia, football player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) arrives at the massive southern plantation estate of old family friend Mr. Carlton (Beau Bridges). Mr. Carlton tells Jim if he ever needs anything to let him know, that their families go back very far. When Mr. Carlton’s granddaughter needs help moving some furniture, Jim offers to help, but Mr. Carlton tells him “they don’t allow niggers in the house”. Meanwhile, Betty X (Joaquina Kalukango) watches her husband Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) on television, just as he arrives home. He tells her how he has been told by higher-ups in the Nation of Islam that if he leaves he will be on his own. Betty doesn’t understand how they can support Elijah Mohammed, who is having affairs and illegitimate children. Betty fears they’re going to be all alone, but he says he has one more ace up his sleeve.
Later, in 1964 in Miami, the four men – Cassius, Sam, Jim, and Malcolm (who are all friends) – are in town for Cassius’s big upcoming fight with Sonny Liston. Angelo tells him that his sponsors are mad that he’s involved with Malcolm X, who they see as a white-hating radical. Cassius says it’s absolutely none of their concern and he can be with whoever he wants. Sam and his wife Barbara (Nicolette Robinson) arrive, and Malcolm calls Sam to ask if Cassius is there, since he thought he might come by to see him. Just then, Cassius arrives, and he and Malcolm share an Islamic prayer. Afterward, Malcolm tells Cassius it might not hurt to tone down the rhetoric until after the fight, to make it easier on him. Malcolm says even if the crowd hates him, he’s made it.
At the match, the crowd watches with bated breath as Cassius upsets, defeating Liston and becoming the new champion. The four men celebrate at the ring, then head back to Malcolm’s hotel room for the afterparty. Sam arrives first and finds the room guarded by Malcolm’s security, Brother Kareem (Lance Reddick) and Jamaal (Christian Magby). The young Jamaal is star-struck by the guests, but Kareem can’t be bothered. The others arrive, and when they ask Malcolm what the party plans are, they are shocked to realize he only invited the four of them. Jim wanted to get laid that evening, and Sam wanted to go to a nice hotel, and not the motel Malcolm is staying in, but eventually, they all decide to stay.
Malcolm convinces Cassius to tell the others that he is officially joining the Nation of Islam. The other two are shocked and have no intention of doing the same. Malcolm leaves to go get his camera, and while he’s out he makes a phone call home to talk to his daughter. He then talks to Betty and confirms that tomorrow Cassius is going to announce his conversion. She asks if he thinks Cassius is going to go along with his plan. He sees some white people nearby and becomes nervous they’re watching him. He says he believes in Cassius. Meanwhile, the starstruck Jamaal asks the men for their autographs. Cassius asks Malcolm if he misses things like alcohol and pork since becoming a Muslim. He says his only regret is not joining sooner since he used to get beat up as a kid.
Jim tells Cassius he’s going to be in a western movie, but Cassius laughs that he’s playing the black man who gets killed. Jim tells him the salary and says it’s easier on his body than football. He asks Cassius to not say anything to the others. When Malcolm returns to the room, he becomes concerned he may be being watched, so the group leaves the motel room and goes up to the roof. Malcolm tells them they can laugh but he’s been followed before. He says he feels a sense of menace in the air lately. To break the tension, Cassius reveals Jim is quitting football to do movies. Sam thinks it’s great since he’s a successful singer and lives in Hollywood and thinks Hollywood is great. Malcolm shows them his camera Betty got him, and when the others toss it around, Malcolm gets briefly upset. He takes a picture of the others.
Sam talks about returning to the Copa, and Malcolm disapproves because he’s performing for white people at all-white venues. Sam thinks any opportunity to perform is worthwhile and that he often wants to say something – Malcolm tells him to use his voice to help the cause. Sam says he’s created a label and producing songs and black artists and it’s just as effective as Malcolm’s preaching. After Sam says maybe Malcolm’s father should have beaten him better, Malcolm lunges at Sam and they have a physical altercation until Kareem tries to break it up – and Jim makes it very clear to Kareem that he best not push him again.
The men return to the motel room, Malcolm chastises Sam because the movement is a fight for their lives and asks what words he is putting out – he puts on Sam’s music and mocks it for being black art made for white people. He accuses Sam of making it himself and leaving everyone behind – he tells Sam he will never be loved by the white audience and that to them he’s just a performing monkey. Sam accuses Malcolm of using Cassius as an opportunity, and Malcolm says that Cassius is passionate about it. Cassius, in turn, confesses he is having second thoughts now after winning the match. Sam explains how a song written by one of his writers got recorded by The Rolling Stones, and that means that black men made huge money on it.
Sam points out the hypocrisy in the Nation of Islam leaders, how the Reverend Elijah Muhammad lives in a massive mansion like a king while black people suffer. Incensed, Malcolm puts on Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind”. Malcolm says that a white boy from Minnesota has a song that speaks more to the struggles of black people than a single word Sam has ever written. He asks him why this song is higher on the charts than anything he’s done. Sam leaves in a furious huff. Cassius says it was too far, but Malcolm becomes emotional, saying black people are dying in the streets every day and no one can stay on the sidelines and that he just believes in Sam’s potential to be better.
Cassius goes after Sam, and Jim stays with Malcolm. Jim points out that light-skinned black men are always so militant. He knows that light-skinned black people are sometimes bullied by other black people, and he asks Malcolm if he’s trying to prove something to white people or to black people. Jim also points out to Malcolm that in order to be truly free, they need to be financially free, and Sam is the only one among them not waiting on a check from a white person. He tells Malcolm that Sam does not deserve what Malcolm is saying about him, and that they aren’t the weapons of his movement. Malcolm says they need to be in order for them to win. Malcolm breaks down, emotional, and Jim asks him what is going on with him.
Meanwhile, Cassius is telling Sam that Malcolm has had an extremely rough few months and that they need to stick together as they are the only ones who understand what is like to be young, famous black men. Sam tells him joining Islam will put a target on his back, but Cassius says it was already there. They return to the motel room, where Sam tells Malcolm that he used to not be like this all the time, now he’s become the person he is on camera. Malcolm tells the story of the first time he met Sam and flashes back to a concert Sam was performing at. The microphone goes out just as Sam is about to begin singing, sabotaged by Jackie Wilson. The crowd began booing and becoming restless, and Sam begins stomping and getting the crowd to do so, creating percussion he sings too.
Sam tells Malcolm carrying the world on his shoulders is bad for his health. Cassius says he won’t be alone much longer, but Malcolm confesses he will soon be leaving the Nation of Islam. Everyone is shocked, since they know there is no way he will be allowed to leave, and he explains he is creating his own organization that he hopes will hew closer to the true Islam. He hopes lots will follow him, especially if Cassius comes with him. Cassius is enraged, telling Malcolm he’s using him. Malcolm insists their time together was real, and if Cassius feels it was motivated by selfishness and opportunism he should walk away. Just then reporters arrive, having spotted Cassius out when he and Sam left earlier. He asks Malcolm to come speak to the press with him, indicating he will stand with him. While they’re gone, Sam tells Jim he has written songs about the movement and he does care. Meanwhile, Cassius tells the press he is a Muslim and will be referred to as “Cassius X”. Everyone goes to a diner to celebrate, and outside Malcolm spots the same two white men.
Later, Sam performs on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where he debuts a new song: “A Change is Gonna Come”. Cassius joins the Nation of Islam that Malcolm left and changes his name to Mohammad Ali. Malcolm’s house is attacked and he and his family are forced to flee for their lives. Jim leaves the NFL to pursue movies full time. Malcolm writes his autobiography and watches on television as Sam cries singing the song. Post-script notes that Malcolm gave a quote about being okay with being a martyr for the cause two days before he was murdered.
Four famous friends - boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr), football player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and activist Malcolm X (Kinglsey Ben-Adir) meet in Miami for Cassius's big boxing match, which he wins. The four men meet in Malcolm's motel room to celebrate, and Cassius tells them he will be joining Malcolm in the nation of Islam. Sam and Malcolm get into a big fight because Malcolm doesn't believe Sam is using his music to help their people. Malcolm eventually reveals he is leaving the Nation of Islam and Cassius feels betrayed, but still announces he is joining them. Eventually, Sam does write "A Change is Gonna Come", Cassius becomes Mohammad Ali, Jim leaves football to become an actor, and Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam but is murdered.